There's almost no chance that you live in Aveiro or you've been to Aveiro and you didn't take a photo on the most famous stairs in the city. The stairs are right next to the main canal of the Lagoon of Aveiro, just five minutes walk from the city center and they send a message that everyone agrees about: I love Aveiro.
These forgotten stairs made of "calçada Portuguesa" were first decorated in spring 2013 by a group of youngsters, volunteers of a local NGO, Agora Aveiro, with the help of graffiti experts from SublimeVilla, a famous tattoo studio. The work was done as a part of an international project, entitled "Art and Trust", implemented to provide opportunities to youngsters to express themselves. The youngsters obtained all the necessary licences from the City Hall and other institutions and presented them to a policeman who came to check out what was happening. A similar process happened simultaneously in Sicily, Italy, where another partner organisation with their group of youngsters did their own street art actions. Suddenly, the grey stairs became one of the most famous spots in Aveiro, and nowadays they are one of the city symbols.
Six years later, there is no touristic route through Aveiro that skips this famous piece of street art. People come here to take photos, even on their wedding days, or just during a stroll through the city. Once you come to Aveiro you will easily find them, just steps away from the hotel Melia Ria and very close to the former ceramics factory, now Congress Center of Aveiro. A few marriage proposals happened inside the red heart, "Happy (Aveiro)" of Pharrell Williams was filmed here, and you can often hear people saying "Let's meet on the I love Aveiro stairs". Somehow, the whole neighbourhood became more lively and colourful thanks to this simple project.
Two years ago, volunteers of Agora Aveiro decided to repaint the stairs, because the colours started fading. This action was done in the frame of an international Erasmus+ project entitled "Do Something Nice" and twenty volunteers of ten different nationalities participated.
I spoke to André Cester, the president and one of the founders of Agora Aveiro and asked him what is the importance of this project for him and the organisation.
First of all, it's the transmission of the sense of belonging, a way to show love for our city and how proud we are of it, because this was a piece of urban art accepted from the first moment by everyone. Secondly, I am really proud of the process itself, and how the project was managed, because youngsters had to get the permission even from a national-level body, which they succeeded. It was our way to show that if we want to express ourselves in an urban space it does not necessarily have to be secretly and illegally.
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